Ice cream, sorbets and Granita: When details make the difference

Last time we said that the sorbet, as we know it today, is very different from that which was prepared centuries ago. In fact, the real sorbet looks like an ice cream.

For this reason, the sorbet is easily recognized today because of its fairly liquid texture.

However, if properly prepared according to traditional recipes, it can be confused with its closest relatives: the granita and the ice cream.

The sorbet has very different features and textures, but they may be not so obvious at first glance.


So let’s discover the main differences between these three foods.

Granita and Sorbet

The granita is a Sicilian dessert.
It has a semi-liquid texture and its only ingredients are water, sugar and fruit juice or other ingredients (such as almonds, pistachios, coffee or cocoa).

As the sorbet, the granita is different from the ice cream because of the lack of milk (and its fats) and cream. So it is less creamy and contains more water.
The granita is considered the ancestor of ice cream but it is more granulated (depends on the place).

The amount of sugar is very important to understand the differences of these desserts.
In general, the granita have little sugar, otherwise it would become a sorbet.
In fact, the amount of sugar in a granita is only 25-35%.

Furthermore the granita differs from the ice cream and sorbet by the lack of air.
The chilling should be slow and this is possible by keeping the mixture in motion, so that too large ice crystals does not form.

Moreover, people often don’t recognize the granita and the gremolada: the granita is generally prepared with fruit juice (usually citrus), while the “gremolata” is realized with pulp turned into puree.

However, the chilling method is the same.


There are two different methods to prepare a granita:

  • prepare a natural fruit syrup with water, juice and fruit puree, or coffee and mint.Once ready, cool the mixture in the freezer for at least three hours.

WARNING! It is extremely important to stir the mixture at the end of each hour, to break up the ice crystals that have formed.

  • break the ice, put it in a tall glass and add a very cold syrup (obviously people will choose the flavour they like, but the most popular are mint, lemon, orange, black cherry and cola)

Ice cream and Sorbet

Ice cream is a sweet dessert with a smooth and creamy texture, consisting mainly of milk, cream, sugar and egg yolks. These ingredients are processed so that the right amount of air is captured to make the mixture soft and light.

Fats and milk proteins help to stabilize water bubbles, lying on their surface and preventing them to escape.
In fact, ice creams have more air than sorbets because they have more fats.

For the sorbet, the sugar carries out this task because when it cools it becomes more viscous.

Ice creams have less sugar than sorbets; they provide milk proteins but also its fats, essential to obtain the right creaminess.

So, the sorbet has more sugar, but it has less calories than the ice cream.

However, other ingredients are important to get an excellent ice cream and they are: the sugar with its antifreeze properties, honey (even more compact than sugar) and eggs (they provide the lecithin which is able to emulsify water and fat).

As usual, here are two recipes you can try to meet the pleasure of a fresh granita or ice cream.


Lemon granita

Ingredients: sugar, filtered lemon juice, water.

Pour the water into a pot and boil it with the sugar.
When the sugar is completely melted and the liquid is clear, turn off the heat and let the syrup cool.
Squeeze lemons to extract their juice and filter it with a strainer.
Then add the juice to the syrup previously obtained and mix them.
Put the lemon granita into the refrigerator and after half an hour, stir again and vigorously to break up the ice crystals.

Repeat it every half an hour for two or three times, until you get a good result.

Stracciatella ice cream

WARNING: in this case the use of an ice cream maker is essential for the preparation of a good ice cream.

Ingredients: whipping cream, milk, sugar, vanilla, dark chocolate.

Heat the milk and cream with sugar and a vanilla pod.
When the sugar is completely melted, pour the mixture into a receptacle.
Then let the mixture cool and put it into the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

At the end pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and set it, following its instructions.
Add some chocolate flakes to the mixture.


As you can see, to stir the mixture is extremely important in the preparation of a granita and an ice cream.

Especially the ice cream needs of an ice cream maker to obtain the best result in creaminess.

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